Ford asks ‘who’s running the country’ in attack on Trudeau, Guilbeault

Click to play video: 'Doug Ford lashes out over Guilbeault’s controversial road funding remarks: ‘He’s out to lunch’'
Doug Ford lashes out over Guilbeault’s controversial road funding remarks: ‘He’s out to lunch’
WATCH: During an exclusive Toronto 640 interview on Thursday, Ontario Premier Doug Ford addressed the controversial claims that “extremist” Environment Minister Steven Guilbeault made on Monday that the federal government will “stop investing in new road infrastructure.” Ford joked, “What are we doing? Are we going to be riding on horseback?” – Feb 22, 2024

Ontario Premier Doug Ford has taken a rare shot at Prime Minister Justin Trudeau during a lengthy radio interview, in which the premier also took aim at federal Environment Minister Steven Guilbeault.

During an interview with AM 640’s John Oakley, Ford talked about Guilbeault and the federal government, labelling the environment minister “an extremist.”

“Sometimes I sit back and wonder, who’s running the country, Justin Trudeau or Guilbeault? And right now I don’t know who’s running the country,” Ford said.

The comments marked a rare attack on the prime minister, who has enjoyed an increasingly cordial relationship with Ontario’s premier in recent years.

The pair have made regular joint announcements, with Ford praising the Trudeau government for its investments in health care and the auto sector.

The two governments have clashed, however, on the issue of Highway 413, a new route the province wants to build between Milton and Vaughan.

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In 2021, the federal government exercised its powers under the Impact Assessment Act to freeze the projects, stopping Ontario from beginning construction on the road. While a Supreme Court opinion has suggested the province may be able to overturn that decision, no final ruling has been made.

As frustration over the frozen route has bubbled over, the Ford government seized on recent comments by Guilbeault in which he suggested the federal government was opposed to building new roads.

When pressed by reporters after the comments, Guilbeault said he “should have been more specific,” clarifying the government doesn’t have the funds for “large projects.” He referred to the trosième lien, a highway tunnel connecting Quebec City to Lévis, as an example.

“Of course we’re funding roads,” he said.

“We have programs to fund roads, but we have said — and maybe I should have been more specific in the past — is that we don’t have funds for large projects like the trosième lien.”

Trudeau has also said Guilbeault has clarified his remarks and said his government has a record of spending on big infrastructure projects, including roads.

Ford, however, has continued to point to Guilbeault’s comments.

“That Minister Guilbeault, the federal environmental minister, I couldn’t believe what he said the other day,” Ford told Oakley.

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“They’re no longer going to fund building roads or highways. And I’m thinking, ‘What are we doing? Are we going to be riding on horseback or bicycles or whatever?'”

In a statement, the advocacy group Greenpeace said Ford was “out to lunch” with his climate change policies.

“Spending billions on a highway so developers can make money from more sprawl would be far better invested in building affordable housing in areas that already have access to services like transit and sewer lines,” the group said.

During the interview, Ford also criticized the federal government’s plan to phase out gas-powered cars by 2035.

Instead of forcing the industry to change, the premier said governments should let it adjust.

“You have to let the market dictate, we’re moving at a rapid pace because the market’s dictating,” Ford said.

“It’s going to be up to the auto sector. I spoke to all the large CEOs of the large auto manufacturers and they aren’t going to be ready by 2035.”

While he was keen to criticize Guilbeault, Ford was careful not to comment on or endorse Conservative Leader Pierre Poilievre.

“It’s up to him to win the election, I’m staying out of it,” Ford said.

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“I’m not getting involved in the federal election, I have my hands full here in Ontario.”

Ford also refused to be drawn on the City of Toronto’s recent 9.5 per cent tax increase or Mayor Olivia Chow’s budget spat with the police.

Ontario Premier Doug Ford in the AM 640 studio with John Oakley. Global News

The premier’s comments came as part of a wide-ranging discussion with Oakley on AM 640, which is owned by Global News’ parent company Corus Entertainment.

The radio appearance marked Ford’s first long-form sit-down interview since he won re-election in June 2022.

Oakley asked Ford as part of the interview if his goal of 1.5 million homes was a “pipe dream” rather than a reality.

“No, I don’t think so,” Ford said. “If everyone hit their targets (like) Toronto did — they hit over 51 per cent — we’ll exceed that. And a lot of cities are.”

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The premier was also pressed to explain what attainable housing means after Global News revealed the province has a cabinet minister responsible for the file but hasn’t come up with a definition.

“They’re coming out with what attainable housing is, we’re working with stakeholders,” Ford said.

“Basically you’re going to be able to own a home, it’s going to be more attainable… it’s going to be a lower price compared to regular homes.”

— with files from Global News’ Aaron D’Andrea

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